Thanks for returning today for Part II of Joanne’s guest blogger post. Joanne is sharing her personal process and the way she selects materials for her individual pieces. She is on a journey with many forks on that road… This is what keeps life and art interesting. Enjoy Joanne’s conclusion:
MATERIALS AND PROCESS
My work has moved from scrap to windows and now to the facade of another old factory, Electrohome, some blocks distant from the railway line; it is unfortunately past salvaging at least in the opinion of its neighbours who want it torn down as soon as possible. Particularly the back of this building is a marvel of disintegration, layer upon layer crumbling away. A few years ago I photographed it in detail; very fortunate that I did this because it is now fenced off.
To begin this project I studied photos of only a small section of the back – a door, brickwork, plaster, swatches of paint, a roofline. I became intrigued by the disintegrating edges of the plaster, revealing brickwork underneath. To achieve organic edges in fabric I needed old cloth that tore easily. I was lucky to find on Etsy an old cutter quilt from Georgia. It has proved to be exactly what I needed. I have now cut off sections of it and taken them apart. I found three layers of old white cotton, some of it threadbare. There was no batting in this quilt and the pieced layer, the fourth layer, was faded to white except for some spots of brown. In making samples of the building’s textures, as this is the way I work when I begin a project, I have found uses for each layer. The most surprising in the uses that I have found for the pieced layer; for example, I can tear off the seams and use them to suggest mortar when I make samples of brickwork.
The first step in assembling the palette of colours that I shall work with, then, has been to find a source of old cloth. The next step is to dye the colours that I need. I use mainly Procion MX dyes. The only colour that has alluded me so far, is a satisfactory gray. I have tried a number of different grays from different companies and have found them all to be tinged with another colour, a reddish gray, a bluish gray, a greenish gray, no pure gray. To the point of utter frustration I have searched for this gray. And then one morning as a desperate move I threw some ferrous sulphate into a pot of strong tea; I had a hunch that it might work. The sulphate saddened the brown of the tea and produced this elusive gray. ( You may well wonder why I had ferrous sulphate around; the truth is I forget but it probably has to do with the fact that a few years back I did a lot of work with rusting. Incidentally, you can buy this chemical through Maiwa in Vancouver.) If you dye silk this way you can even get black. This potion is also good for graying other colours. It takes some experience with this dye to develop a sense of how long to leave the cloth in the solution. If left too long you can gray the colours right out.
I usually dye in small batches the colours that I need for my samples, not the most efficient way but it works for me. There is a lot of experimentation involved to get the colours right as my palette tends toward dull colours. So far, in this current project, I have produced gray, a range of reds from dark red to pink, a range of oranges, a grayish blue, and a range of greens. In obtaining these colours I am always guided by the colours in my photos.
To sample the textures of this old building I have had to do numerous studies of brickwork. For this brickwork I have used what is termed “shop cloth” in hardware stores. It is 100% cotton and loosely woven; it takes dye well and has a rough texture suitable for bricks. I have found two types and have used both to good effect.
There is another type of fabric that I am using for this project. Occasionally, I cannot find a suitable fabric in my large stash. Then I start to look through my closets. It has happened twice so far. First, I was looking for a certain red to suggest a door. I tried to dye the red, but without success. Then I found an old red shirt with rips across the back. I tried it in a sample and it worked. And, just recently, I was trying to represent old black brickwork. I needed a piece of old, worn black fabric of which I had very little. I thought of an old black cotton dress that I had worn out. It, too, succumbed to my need.
Finally, I have found that sometimes there will be an inexplicable element in the building, this time a set of boards somehow attached to the plaster. Then I may resort to my stash of vintage Japanese fabrics. In this case, a lovely subdued green striped fabric interspersed with pin striping of brown and pink. Luckily, there is enough for my purposes.
I am still not sure where all of my sampling is leading. It is my method to keep making samples until they suggest what I should make. It is in this process that I internalize my subject and then something emerges that I hope is good.
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Thank you Joanne for your wonderful guest blogger contribution. To find out more about Joanne and her work check out her Interview on the World of Threads website. Here is the link.
Interested in getting in touch with Joanne? Email me <firstname.lastname@example.org> and I will forward your contact info to the artist!